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Hitting the Wall

hitting the wall what to do

Meeting your next fitness challenge can be hampered by “hitting the wall,” a common but frustrating fitness barrier. While hitting this wall can be disappointing and may mean a delay in your fitness gains, you can work your way past it.

It took me a great deal of work to smash through the wall I met when training for triathlons, specifically the run. I reached exhaustion, fatigue, and the soul-crushing need to quit at the 8-kilometer mark for a long time. 

Hitting the wall is a familiar term for runners, but it can apply to all sports.

The phrase is dead-on; when you hit the wall, there is no moving on. Mentally, I used my long-term goal of completing a triathlon to push myself. However, with proper, thoughtful training of both mind and body, you can give yourself the tools you need to go around, over, and through this wall.  

Why a Wall?

The term “hitting the wall” is on point. Think dead stop in your tracks. There is a physiological component in your muscle tissues, so it is not just in your head. However, there is a psychological effect as well. Hitting the wall is an experience that affects both the mind and body. Legs become useless appendages that weigh an impossible amount.

Your prior mental toughness evaporates; continuing seems an impossible task. Physiologically, you have likely run out of your crucial energy source that is glycogen (think carbs). Hitting the wall appears to happen suddenly, hence “the wall.” 

How Bad Is It?

It can be devastating. If you have a specific goal in mind and hit the wall, it can be a profoundly negative experience, one that is beyond discouraging. Plus, the agony and exhaustion is no walk in the park either. Many experience confusion, disorientation, and crippling weakness. 

This is the point where you need to recognize risk and that you need to care for yourself at that moment. Sadly, not every race or training session can end in the success that you have anticipated.

Are You Training Right?

You have set a fitness goal, let’s say a 10km race occurring six months from now. Have you broken this significant goal down into several manageable chunks?

Setting both short and long-term goals is critical for your fitness success.

By setting weekly and monthly “mini-goals,” you provide your body and mind the opportunity to develop and progress. 

Proper training allows for you to celebrate your successes and your body an opportunity to adapt. If terms like progressive overload and periodization are unfamiliar, or if they seem too daunting to take on, invest in some time with a Personal Trainer to get you on the right track with your training.

Are You Eating Right?

Food is fuel. The foods you choose to fuel your body matter, not just for your overall health but also for your sports performance.

If you indulge in highly processed, high-fat, and high sugar foods, your body will not function at its best.

Eating for performance is as essential as training for performance. If you are unsure if your diet meets your health and performance needs, consult a Registered Dietician or a Registered Nutritionist for proper guidance.

Train Your Mental Muscles:

This requires thought and a realistic evaluation of where you are in your training, your goals, and how much you want to achieve.

When I was training for triathlons, I spent some of my rest and recovery time  performing visualization exercises. I would rest quietly with my eyes closed and take myself through each leg of the race, finishing with a successful cross of the finish line. 

Many find it helpful to use positive self-talk when working out; develop your mental toughness to talk yourself through the challenging times.

  • Believe in yourself and your ability to achieve your goals.
  • Reject any negative comments from others.
  • Chat with your fellow fitness fanatics; it’s likely they have also hit the wall and may have more tips for you to try. 

Remember, you have a worthwhile goal; you have planned well to achieve that goal, so let nothing, including a brick wall, stand in your way.

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